Joe Panella was the ace the injury-prone Homestead baseball team needed this season.
The hard-throwing junior earned Now All-Suburban team honors and second-team WBCA All-State accolades and almost singlehandedly kept the 18-13 Highlander pitching staff afloat as injuries took down Ricky West early and even cost Panella a few games late in the season.
He finished at 7-2 this season, including a mark of 5-1 in conference with one save. His only loss in league play was an eight-inning decision to North Shore Conference champion West Bend West when he had an uncharacteristic five walks, his highest total of the season. He was a first-team All-North Shore Conference choice.
He beat both Waukesha West and Tosa West in nonconference play and took the loss in the season-ending defeat to Grafton in the WIAA regional final. In that regional game, a 3-0 defeat, Panella didn't give up an earned run.
He struck out 12 in a victory over Port Washington and also recorded double-digit Ks against Kewaskum (11), Cedarburg (10) and Tosa West (10).
Overall, Panella finished with 77 strikeouts and 20 walks, allowing just 35 hits, 12 runs and eight earned runs all season. His WHIP was an impressive 0.90.
Highlander coach Ernie Millard could have not more pleased with his efforts.
"His numbers were fantastic this season," Millard said. "He's got a great slider, and he holds runners on very well. There were three dominant pitchers in the league this summer: Adam Lukas (of Grafton), Nathan Burns (West) and Joe. He clearly belonged in that group. He was just as dominant as any of them."